Dot Davis will never forget that day in February 2003
Dot Davis will never forget that day in February 2003. Jim had been battling aggressive prostate cancer for a year and a half. They had made the long drive together to his appointment. When his doctor announced that his battle had sent the cancer into remission, excitement filled the office. “He won his battle,” Dot thought, but her intuition cautioned her relief. When they returned to their hotel room, she called her primary physician to ask about her recent chest x-ray.
Her physician had diagnosed the tender spot near her sternum as inflamed cartilage. “I must have lifted something incorrectly,” Dot thought as she tried to replay her recent activities. But when the pain persisted, she requested a chest x-ray. Her physician tried to explain to the retired principal that the strained cartilage would not show on an x-ray, but she knew she needed that x-ray.
“Dot, can you get Jim on the phone as well,” her physician requested when she called. “It can’t be good,” Dot said as she braced herself for the news. As they sat in their hotel room, each listening on separate phones, the couple heard the shocking words, “Dot, your x-ray revealed a mass in your lungs.” The couple looked at each other in disbelief. Several tests later, they learned the mass was cancerous.
“I have never smoked. I was a principal for thirty years; I wasn’t even around second-hand smoke at work,” explains the woman. Dot’s surgeon resectioned the lower lobe of her lung and removed the middle lobe finding the cancer to have spread further than they realized. “Did you have a cough or difficult time breathing?” everyone asked. “Never,” Dot answered still to her own surprise. “I will never know the reason behind it.” The pathology report indicated the lung cancer had spread to a nearby lymph node, making it Stage IV lung cancer. The odds were not in her favor.
Dot’s surgeon recommended she undergo chemotherapy treatments at MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando. “We wanted to find the best and most experienced doctor. We did. The team approach MD Anderson – Orlando used reassured me. So much thought and preparation has gone into my treatment plan,” Dot explains. Medical oncologist Jennifer Tseng, MD, treated Dot’s lung cancer. “I am impressed by Dr. Tseng. She has done so much to prevent side effects and problems from the chemotherapy. I haven’t had a bad day in my treatment,” she shares. Even with the loss of her hair, Dot just grabbed a cute hat and kept on living life. “I have thought more about living with cancer, than dying from it,” she says.
Dot felt normal every time she came to MD Anderson – Orlando for treatment. “The nursing staff makes chemotherapy seem routine and easy. This has helped me feel like I can continue living my life.” Entertaining guests in her home, playing the piano, taking daily hour-long walks, helping with their church and keeping up with Sense and Nonsense, the book of family emails keeps Dot moving. “That is far from what I expected as a cancer patient. MD Anderson – Orlando is professional yet filled with joy. It is a happy place, a hopeful place.”
Dot’s cancer was in remission for eighteen months, when she awoke one morning with a gurgling cough. She immediately phoned Dr. Tseng and went for a test. “Dr. Tseng is wonderful. She knows how anxious her cancer patients are after a test so she schedules an appointment soon after the test and calls with any concerns. Because I have had such frequent tests, we have found problems early.” This time the tests revealed the cancer had returned. The news did not cause Dot to worry; her faith in God and assurance of many friends and family praying wrapped her usually worrisome mind in peace. “We haven’t wasted any of our time, not even with worry. We know God is with us,” she says.
No visible signs of lung cancer remain in Dot’s body; however,she continues chemotherapy every three weeks to prevent its reoccurrence. “Our time is valuable and MD Anderson – Orlando knows that. If I have to wait more than ten minutes, they tell me to come to the desk and find out why. Running on schedule is so important when you come so often.” MD Anderson – Orlando knows how precious each moment is.
“It is hard to imagine that I can feel so great and have such a terrible disease,” she explains while shaking her head in disbelief. “I’m surviving and that’s the most wonderful thing. The care I receive at MD Anderson – Orlando gives me hope. I know that I could not get better care anywhere else,” says Dot with a wide smile.